PlanetJune Craft Blog

Latest news and updates from June

Archive for September, 2012

ultimate finish for amigurumi [video]

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/finish

Continuing with my plan to make video tutorials for every essential amigurumi technique, here’s the latest one: the Ultimate Finish. This is the neatest way to fasten off and close the remaining hole when you’ve finished crocheting a piece of amigurumi. Together with the invisible decrease, you’ll be able to make the bottom of your amigurumi look almost as neat as the top, with a smooth, gap-free base.

ultimate finish for amigurumi video tutorial, by planetjune

(If you already know this technique, you can skip this video, if you like – there’s nothing extra that I didn’t show you in my original ultimate finish photo tutorial – it’s just another addition to my essential crochet tutorials video library.)

And now to the video tutorial (in right- and left-handed versions, of course):

Ultimate Finish for Amigurumi (right-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Ultimate Finish for Amigurumi (left-handed)

Click to watch this video on YouTube.

Note: The videos may look a little small embedded in the blog: if so, you can fullscreen them or click through to YouTube to watch them full-sized πŸ™‚

If you enjoy my crochet tutorial videos, please help to spread the word about them, and/or subscribe to the PlanetJune YouTube channel. And let me know if you have any requests for crochet techniques you’d like me to explain in a future video tutorial!


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Thank you so much for your support! Now click below for loads more crochet video and photo tutorials (and do let me know what else you’d like me to cover in future tutorials…)

See more helpful PlanetJune crochet tips and technique tutorials

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Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern

With the Accessory-Along crochet-along about to begin on October 1st, this was perfect timing for me to launch my latest PlanetJune Accessories design, the Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl. Two harmonising shades of yarn undulate together to create a beautiful gossamer-fine shawl with airy lightness and amazing drape.

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

The lace pattern has a 2-row repeat, so you’ll pick it up in no time and be able to enjoy crocheting without having to worry about a complicated pattern. The clever stitch pattern is worked continuously from 2 balls of yarn; there’s no fastening off between stripes, or lengths of stranded yarn to worry about hiding. You can even omit the edging and the shawl will still look good!

My lace patterns are designed to be worked with normal-sized hooks into the spaces between stitches, which means that, after the foundation row, there’s no hunting for those tiny fine loops to work into, and they are a pleasure to work.

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

As always, I include full instructions for modifying the size of the shawl in both length and width – you can make it as narrow as a scarf, or as wide as a blanket, and the length is only determined by how long you want it (and how much yarn you have available).

My shawl uses an entire 400m/50g skein of the main darker colour, and 86% of the contrast colour skein – you can see that it’s very long and a shorter version would still be ample for most people. I used a laceweight baby alpaca yarn (KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud in Foxtrot Heather and Iris Heather) which is surprisingly warm, even with such an open lacy design – I’m really going to enjoy wearing this!

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

The Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl is a versatile pattern; here are a few modification suggestions to get you started:

  • Use contrasting colours of yarn to punch up the ‘wow’ factor of the rippled stripe effect.
  • Work the design in a heavier yarn (fingering weight/sock yarns would look lovely) to give a more substantial shawl with more warmth and coverage.
  • Omit the edging, or edge with a third colour, and you’ll be able to make the most of your 2 skeins of yarn in the shawl body.
  • For a faster project, make a narrower scarf-width version.

Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl crochet pattern by June Gilbank

I hope you’ll enjoy this shawl as much as I do! You can buy the Rippled Lace Rectangular Shawl pattern individually from my shop, or buy it as part of a custom set of any three PlanetJune Accessories designs for a bargain price.

If you’re not quite ready to buy though, how about queuing it on ravelry so you don’t forget about it?

If you’d like to make this shawl, or any of my other accessory designs, I hope you’ll join us in the PlanetJune Ravelry group for the Accessories crochet-along. The CAL officially starts on October 1st, but if you can’t wait to get going, feel free to start crocheting early!

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creating an outdoor photo studio

I finished my new PlanetJune Accessories shawl design in June. The pattern was ready, the stitch diagrams were ready, the blocked and beautiful sample was ready. Only one thing remained to do before I could publish it: the cover photos.

I don’t feel comfortable here walking around by myself in a dress, carrying a (relatively) expensive camera on a tripod, and posing for photos with my back to the camera while hoping nobody is walking off with it at that very moment. I always felt safe doing that in Canada, but here it just feels like a stupid risk, and so the months ticked by with no shawl pattern…

The only solution I could see was to give up on trying for beautiful scenery – after all, the main focus of my pattern cover photos should be the shawl, not the background – and take the photos in the safety and privacy of my garden. But our garden is a scrappy mess: we’re both very busy, and gardening isn’t a high priority for either of us. (Plus, the birds and butterflies and geckos and chameleons seem to be very happy with the garden’s current state. It’s not a mess: it’s a natural wildlife garden!)

One particular wall in the garden was the most promising candidate for photos – it’s tall, wide, interestingly textured… and a complete mess. Flaking paint in 2 or 3 colours, bare areas, lichens and general grime made for a horrible dirty-looking background – not exactly the look I want people to associate with my beautiful accessories! So I gave myself a weekend project to fix up this wall:

garden wall

I scraped off all the loose paint and other bits with a wire brush, then scrubbed the entire wall with a bleach solution to get rid of the dirt and lichen. As there were areas with no paint or primer, I used an exterior primer to cover the whole surface (very slow going on such a heavily textured surface) and bring it up to bright white:

garden wall

And then I rolled on a coat of custom-tinted exterior paint. I chose this shade of green because it’s a fairly natural, neutral colour. It should also be easy to tweak in post-processing to make it yellower, brighter green, or grey, so I can customize the backdrop for each photoshoot.

garden wall

After the paint dried, I can see it has some thin areas where the colour looks paler, so it’ll need a second coat at some point. But this was a good enough finish to finally take my shawl photos – phew!

Now I’ll have plenty of photography opportunities with beautiful natural lighting in my new outdoor studio: a couple of hours of shade in the mornings before the sun peeks over the wall; late afternoons once the sun has hidden behind the mountain; plus any time the sky is cloudy-but-bright. And now I don’t need to travel to get my shots, I don’t need to worry that the weather will change while I’m en route!

This may seem like an expensive and time-consuming solution (the paint wasn’t cheap, and it took a long time to prep and prime the wall), but, given my circumstances, I think this photo-studio-in-the-garden makes a lot of sense. It isn’t perfect – of course I’d prefer beautiful scenic views to a blank wall – but at this stage I don’t have the time to hunt for locations or the energy to deal with the stress and worry involved in trying to set up and photograph there. My choices were to abandon my Accessories range simply because getting cover photos was proving too difficult, or go for a compromise. I love creating new Accessories designs, so being able to take the photos in my own garden is definitely the best solution for my current situation.

PlanetJune Accessories shawl teaser
A little teaser for the new pattern…

I think it’s really important to try to make the best of things and accept that not everything can be exactly the way you’d like it to be in an ideal world. Moving to Cape Town required some major adjustments, in my personal life, of course, but also in my business life. I’ve been here for well over a year now and I’m still struggling with some aspects of maintaining PlanetJune from a different continent – for example, just acquiring worsted weight yarn for new amigurumi designs is no easy task – so anything I can do to simplify my life and my business practices is worth it. In the end, I know what my priorities are: I can compromise on my photo backgrounds, but not on my pattern quality – and I don’t think anyone could argue with that decision!

And now I’m relieved and delighted to finally be able to say: look out for a beautiful new PlanetJune Accessories pattern, launching tomorrow! πŸ˜€

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positioning amigurumi eyes

Link easily to this tutorial in your patterns: www.planetjune.com/eyes

Looking for options for eyes and noses? Or online eye sources? If not, read on:

Judging the best eye positions for amigurumi is a skill that doesn’t come easily to most people. I know from talking to my customers that it can be very frustrating when you’ve worked hard to make an amigurumi but it ends up with an unusual looking face and you’re not quite sure why…

amigurumi eye positions
Examples of eye positions for a realistic amigurumi dog

Before you permanently attach amigurumi eyes, as well as checking that the eyes are level with each other and not wonky, it’s also worth playing with them to make sure they are in the position you like best. In my patterns, I give guidelines for positioning the facial features to look right for each animal, but I thought I’d give a little lesson today in facial proportion that will give you a place to start for any animal (including humans).

Tip: If you’re having problems with the eye positions for an animal with a separate muzzle, it can be helpful to attach the muzzle before positioning the eyes, or at least hold the muzzle up to the face so you can judge the eye placement more carefully. As you’ll see below, the muzzle and eye positions are often closely related.

Here are my rule-of-thumb guidelines for positioning eyes on your amigurumi animals to give a realistic result. They aren’t 100% accurate for every animal, but are generally a good starting point. This is useful to know even if you aren’t looking to create realistic animals: once you know what the realistic position should be, you can easily modify it to make your animal cuter in a cartoony or kawaii way.

Eye Height

The number one mistake that most people instinctively make is to place the eyes too high (see examples 1 and 3 above). In children’s drawings of people, the eyes are usually drawn about a third of the way down the head, and this perception generally carries through into adulthood unless you’ve studied art or anatomy. Here are some rules-of-thumb to remember:

  • Place the eyes roughly halfway up the head, or very slightly higher.
  • If the animal has a muzzle, place the eyes level with the top of the muzzle.

Let’s look at these principles in action with photos of myself and my helpful assistant Maui, and then see how they look in amigurumi:

positioning facial features for amigurumi, by planetjune
The top and bottom blue lines mark the top and bottom of the head. The middle blue line is halfway between them. You can see that the eyes are always at, or slightly above, the middle blue line, and the top of the muzzle (or ‘nose’ in my case!) is also at that same level.

Eye Spacing

This is more variable: some animals have forward-facing eyes, while others have sideways-facing eyes. A pattern should tell you if you need to place the eyes on either side of the head (i.e. facing out to each side), like these:

positioning facial features for amigurumi, by planetjune

In these cases, the exact positioning is less critical, but, as you can’t easily see both eyes at once, check your animal from both the front and the top to make sure the eyes are level both horizontally and vertically before you commit to attaching the backs of your safety eyes.

If the eyes aren’t sideways-facing, there’s more chance of a positioning error. Here are the rules-of-thumb to avoid spacing problems:

  • The most common mistake is to place the eyes too close together (see examples 2 and 3 at the top of this post) – this will give your animal a confused or cross-eyed look, which doesn’t (usually) look cute. The centres of the eyes should always be separated by at least half the width of the face.
  • If the animal has a muzzle, place the eyes approximately level with each edge of the muzzle.

Let’s see some examples of these principles too:

General Spacing:
face proportions for amigurumi, by planetjune
Here the blue lines show the centre of each eye, and the green lines show the edges of the face. Note the spacing between the eyes (the distance between the blue lines) is never less than half the width of the face (the distance between the green lines).

Muzzles:
face proportions for amigurumi, by planetjune
Here the blue lines show the approximate eye spacing, which is also equal to the width of the muzzle. (I obviously don’t have a muzzle, but my eyes are spaced apart by the width of my nose, so the principle still applies!)

Adding Cuteness

Of course, you don’t have to aim for the most realistic result – you can modify the general principles to give your animals a cuter, more cartoony look. The simplest way to go from realistic to extra-cute is to use larger eyes than recommended. You can also try positioning the eyes a little lower and/or the nose a little higher. (Taking this to extremes, the Japanese ‘kawaii’ look often places the nose higher than the eyes, but you don’t have to go that far to get a cute result!)

Go and Play!

Just to be clear: it’s never wrong if you choose to make your ami differently; it’s only a problem if you’re not happy with the end result. Avoiding unhappiness is what I’m trying to achieve with these ‘rules’, but, as I said at the start, they’re only general guidelines. If a pattern has different instructions for eye placement, you should follow those instead. And, of course, if you prefer the look of the eyes in a different position, you should always feel free to do things differently.

Eyes are so important to the look of the finished amigurumi – they give it expression and personality. Positioning the eyes so their animals look their best can be tricky, and I hope the guidelines in this post will help reduce that frustration. If you haven’t been happy with your amigurumis’ faces in the past, hopefully you’ll now have an idea where you may have been going wrong, so you can try a different eye placement next time.

Take an extra minute to make sure you’re happy with your ami’s eyes before you commit to the placement: it can make all the difference between an ami that’s just not quite right and one you can be proud of!


Do you find my tutorials helpful? If so, please consider making a contribution towards my time so I can continue to create clear and concise tutorials for you:

Thank you so much for your support! Now click below for loads more crochet video and photo tutorials (and do let me know what else you’d like me to cover in future tutorials…)

See more helpful PlanetJune crochet tips and technique tutorials

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AmiDogs Rottweiler crochet pattern

It’s amazing how quickly time flies – it’s been over a year since my last AmiDogs design (the Basset Hound who accompanies my amigurumi Columbo) but, thanks to my Commissions system, it’s time to add to the collection with my 20th dog crochet pattern, AmiDogs Rottweiler.

AmiDogs Rottweiler crochet pattern by PlanetJune

With 19 dog breed designs under my belt, I thought I must have a pretty good idea of how to design a dog crochet pattern by now, but it was still a challenge to capture the Rottie’s essence. I had to set it aside for a while and work on something else until I figured out the subtle changes in shape that would make the design work. I think I finally nailed it though πŸ™‚

AmiDogs Rottweiler crochet pattern by PlanetJune

Here are the other 19 AmiDogs breeds:



Don’t forget, if your favourite(s) are still missing, you can commission them! I’ve just added the most popular requests to the commission options, if you’d like to pledge towards any of them. If your favourites aren’t on the list, please submit your requests (through the form on the Commissions page) so I can consider adding them in the next design review. I no longer create new AmiDogs designs without a commission, so this is the only way to get your favourites made from now on.

If you know someone who loves Rottweilers, you can pick up the AmiDogs Rottweiler pattern in the shop right now. Or, if you’d like to add several dogs to your pattern collection, I recommend my AmiDogs Custom Set – you can choose any 3 dog breeds for a bargain price.

Thanks to everyone who commissioned me to make this design! Next up on the commissions list: the Giant Panda (I’ll be collecting pledge monies tomorrow) – yay!

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basic knit raglan cardigan

Look what I made!

grey knitted cardigan

This was my second ever knitting project, after the wristwarmers I made last year. I lost my knitting momentum as I waited 3 months for the needles I’d ordered to arrive in South Africa, and found it very difficult to pick it back up again, especially as my plan was pretty daunting: to make a cardigan from scratch with no pattern.

Actually, the plan was for 2 cardigans, one knit and one crochet, as relaxation projects to keep me occupied outside working hours so I don’t end up working all the time. Although the crocheted cardigan was much faster to create (I finished it in July), I haven’t quite finished weaving in the ends on that one, so the knitted one gets to make its debut first πŸ™‚

WIP cardigans - knit and crocheted - by planetjune
Self-designed knitted and crocheted cardigans in progress

When I finally decided to make a start on the cardigan project in June, I measured some of my existing clothes to give me an idea of size and then just started with the back of each, with no real idea of what to do after that. My plan with this knitted cardigan was to make it a learn-as-I-go piece: picking up new knitting skills along the way as I needed them, and hopefully ending up with something wearable too; or at the very least a good idea for how to make the next one good enough to wear without embarrassment. And, somewhat to my surprise, this strategy worked!

Project Details

Yarn: Bernat Satin in Forest Mist Heather

I bought 6 skeins of this yarn at a yarn factory outlet sale in 2010. One became my Diamond Lattice Neckwarmer, so I had 5 left, and I hoped that would be enough. (If not, my plan was to add some stripes of a different colour near the edges.) As it turned out, I only needed 3.7 skeins – less than 700m of yarn – so that’ll be handy to keep in mind for my next sweater.

Needles: KnitPicks interchangeables, 5mm, with 2×24″ and 2×32″ cables

I’m really enjoying these KnitPicks needles. I have the nickel-plated tips and they’re lovely and smooth and very easy to knit with (not that I have anything to compare them with). I made full use of the interchangeable needle tips and cables with this cardigan:

  • I held each piece on one of the spare cables until it was time to join them together. To start the next piece, I switched the needle tips to a different cable and screwed the stoppers on each end of the old cable.
  • I used cable connectors to make extra-long cables and to join the cables temporarily so I could slide my live stitches from one cable to another.

At some points I had all 4 of my cables in use; I think I’ll need to invest in some more, and longer, cables before my next project.

Pattern: None! I made it up as I went along.

grey knitted cardigan drying flat with feline assistance
Maui volunteered to keep the finished cardigan held flat while it dried…

Techniques

Here’s my journey of new knitting skills:

Provisional cast-on: I decided to use a provisional cast-on (a crocheted chain made in a different yarn) to give me some flexibility with the length and put off the decision of how to edge the piece until I got further into the project (and hence a little more knitting practice).

Purl: As a cardigan is worked in rows, this was my first attempt at purling (my wristwarmers were worked in the round, so they only used the knit stitch). I made the body in one seamless piece, bottom up, up to the armholes, then set it aside to start the sleeves.

Increases: I knitted my first increases for the sleeves, using Knitting Help’s incredibly useful increase reference to pick the increases I liked best (M1L and M1R, in case you were wondering).

Mattress stitch: I had planned to knit the sleeves in the round as I did for my wristwarmers, but, after working flat, I couldn’t remember how I managed to knit in the round (with Magic Loop) without getting any ladders at either side – it had seemed so easy before! I decided to worry about that later and keep my momentum going by working the seams flat and learning how to stitch side seams invisibly with mattress stitch instead.

A little detour… After making most of the first sleeve, I basted it closed to make sure it was wide enough at the bicep. It turns out that, although my gauge calculations were spot on, the size of my arms is apparently a little wider than I’d thought, as the sleeve was going to fit very closely – not a very flattering look. I ripped it all out, added 20% to all my width calculations and started again…

grey knitted cardigan

Decreases: I joined the body and sleeves to make a raglan yoke. It was time to learn how to make left-leaning and right-leaning decreases, so I referred back to Knitting Help to choose my favourites (k2tog and SKP).

Kitchener stitch: After finishing the yoke, I had to stitch the sleeves to the body at the underarms, so it was time to learn how to stitch invisible horizontal seams with Kitchener stitch. I wish crocheted seams were this simple and invisible!

Ribbing: I decided a 1×1 rib might look nice for the edging (with the advantage that I’d then be able to try TECHknitting’s tubular cast-off that I had my eye on). (In the end, I decided against using it in the finished sweater – I just didn’t like the finished look of it, so I ripped the cuffs out and redid them later.)

Magic Loop (again): By the time I got to edging the cuffs, I’d already seamed the sleeves together, so working flat was no longer an option. I relearnt Magic Loop so I could complete the cuff edging in the round.

Tubular Cast-off: I really liked the idea of this cast-off because it has no edge to look messy (and as an added bonus, I got to learn double knitting as part of the technique). The instructions I used didn’t explain one crucial step (bring the yarn to the front before slipping the purl stitches; bring the yarn to the back before slipping the knit stitches) so it took me a while to figure out what I was doing wrong. In the end, although I did master the technique, I didn’t love the look, so I decided to lose the ribbing and tubular cast-off and try something with a cleaner look instead…

I-cord Cast-off: Did you know there are apparently infinite variants of how to do this? Knitting some, or all, of the stitches through the back loop, decrease with k2tog, ssk, or skp… Every tutorial and video I looked at had a slightly different method. I decided to try the KnitPicks tutorial (except with a provisional cast-on) and it looked fine, so I went with that method.

Picking up stitches: Edging the cuffs and bottom was easy – I just ripped out my provisional crocheted cast-on and continued knitting downwards from there. But, to make the collar edging and button band, I needed to pick up stitches along the side edge, so I could add an applied i-cord. My gauge was a perfect 18 sts and 24 rows in 4″ (exactly as the ball band of my yarn claimed!) so I picked up stitches on 3 of every 4 rows so my vertical edging wouldn’t pucker.

Buttonholes: I sort of cheated in my buttonholes: all I did was to not pick up the stitches at the points where I wanted the buttonholes to be, and worked the i-cord without attaching it for 3 rows to leave a vertical gap. I’ll have to learn a proper method in my next project!

Weaving in ends: Thanks to adding edgings, changing my mind, starting new balls of yarn, etc, I had a whopping 26 ends to weave in. Luckily, I already had an excellent tutorial bookmarked from The Purl Bee that clearly shows several different techniques. My favourite was duplicate stitch on the wrong side.

Finishing touches: I was hoping to find some decorative shank buttons to liven up the cardigan slightly, but when I went shopping I found a clear sign that wasn’t the way to go. These buttons cost 5c each (that’s less than 1 US cent apiece!) and amazingly were a perfect match for the greenish grey shade of my yarn. I used sewing thread to attach them, with a crochet hook as a spacer to make a thread shank, and small anchor buttons on the back so my thread wouldn’t cut through the yarn with wear. To finish it off, I knotted yarn all the way up each thread shank both to stop it from being floppy and to disguise the thread.

grey knitted cardigan
Perfect match! (This photo is untouched – the subtle heathered greenish grey of the yarn shows clearly here.)

Result

13 new knitting techniques learnt, and what do I have to show at the end of it all? A totally wearable cardigan!

grey knitted cardigan
Happy June says “I made this!”

It’s not perfect in terms of design: I forgot to start neck shaping while I was wrestling with the first few rows of the joined sleeves and body, so the V is a little shallower than I’d have preferred. Also, the i-cord isn’t quite enough to stop the stockinette from curling at the bottom, although it does stay fairly flat while I’m wearing it so I don’t think I’ll bother adding a facing to stabilise it.

But it fits very nicely, it doesn’t look embarrassingly ‘homemade’, and it’s been doing a great job of keeping me warm all week. And, in the end, isn’t that exactly what a cardigan should do?

Verdict

As a self-teaching tool, this project worked exactly as I’d hoped – I gradually, over the course of making the cardigan, taught myself a huge number of knitting techniques. If I’d tried to learn them all before tackling the project I’d probably have been too daunted to ever make a start on it. I had the advantage that I’ve read lots of knitting tutorials over the past few years, so, even though I didn’t know how to knit ahead of time, I did know the theory (e.g. you need to pair a left-leaning and right-leaning decrease; you use mattress stitch for a vertical seam and Kitchener stitch for a horizontal seam, etc) – so it was just a matter of googling each new technique as I needed it.

I had no doubt that I’d be able to do something like this in crochet, but designing a knitted cardigan when I didn’t even know how to purl before I started did seem like a bit of a crazy challenge… Knowing that I had a goal (a piece of wearable clothing) in mind kept me moving forward and trying new techniques in a far shorter amount of time than I would have managed to learn them otherwise.

I guess I can say I’ve graduated from the ‘beginner’ knitter category now? Plus, I have the added bonus of a nice warm cardigan that fits! And I suppose I could even call myself a knitwear designer now too, although strictly for fun, not profit πŸ™‚

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Commissions Review: 6 months

It’s now been 6 months since I started my crowd-sourced commissions process and I thought this would be a good point to step back and re-evaluate the process. In case you aren’t interested in my review, I should mention first that there are now 12 new design options on the Commissions list, so please click through to the list if you’d like to see what’s new, and maybe pledge towards one or more!

And now to the review…

The Story So Far

It’s been working well so far – too well, maybe, as I’ve tweaked the system 3 times so I don’t get overwhelmed with commissions! We’ve had 7 designs fully funded so far:

PlanetJune Commissions - the first 6 months

  • Koala, Platypus, Chameleon, and Sea Otter have all been completed, and I’ve had only positive feedback from the people who pledged towards them. I’m very happy to now also be able to include them in my pattern catalogue.
  • AmiDogs Rottweiler is being designed right now!
  • Giant Panda and AmiDogs Scottish Terrier are funded and still in the queue to be designed.

If the queue keeps growing, I may need to make another change, as I don’t want the queue to keep lengthening – if too many commissions stack up, I may reach the point where I wouldn’t be able to make a funded design for a year or more, and that wouldn’t make anyone happy! But, luckily, with 19 AmiDogs designs under my belt already, new breeds are typically much less difficult to design than starting from scratch with a completely new animal, so I should be able to zip through the Rottie and Scottie designs much more quickly than the ones I’ve already completed.

Copycatting

One potential concern about putting my design ideas on display like this is that I’ve noticed several other people suddenly releasing amigurumi patterns for the animals on my list. I certainly don’t have a monopoly on animals, so I’m not complaining about that, but I want to add a note of caution to anyone using my commissions list for inspiration: if you’re making animal designs from my list purely because you think that means they’ll be popular, you’re missing the point of the list.

None of my innovative and original design ideas are up there – the reason these animals are on my list is that I don’t think they’ll be big sellers, which is why I want some money upfront before I spend my time designing them! And that’s proven to be accurate: my non-commissioned designs over the same timeframe (Succulents, Baby Bunnies, Polyhedral Balls/Gaming Dice…) have all brought in far more sales than the commissioned patterns, as I expected they would.

Budding amigurumi designers: if you want to succeed, don’t look to other amigurumi designers for your inspiration. You should make designs that fit your style and the things you love – be original and be true to yourself. Do you want to be in competition with me, or do you want to carve your own niche and have no competitors..?

Pledge Review

One of the potential concerns with my idea is that, unlike Kickstarter, which inspired me to try this in the first place, my ‘campaigns’ have no end date. My gut feeling is that people who want a specific design enough to pledge towards it will still want it even if it doesn’t get developed immediately. Still, there is the concern: what happens if a design is fully funded 2 years later, or 5 years..? How many of the pledgers will still want the design enough to pay for it, or even remember they made the pledge?

For this reason, I decided to do a pledge review at this point in the process. I contacted existing pledgers to check they are still happy to honour their pledges, and delete their pledges if not. Nobody wanted to cancel altogether, and only one person reduced their pledge amount, so I may do a pledge review less frequently than 6-monthly in future (I’ve always given the option for people to contact me to delete a pledge if they change their mind before the design is fully funded). Tweaking these details is another part of developing and testing the process for the long-term.

Design Options Review

After the pledge review, I pulled the designs that were less than halfway to being funded from the list, to make way for others that may be prove to be more popular. (They may return in future – the whole point of this process was to test whether a design will be worth making, and maybe the less-popular ideas will be more appealing next year.)

For new designs, I’ve reviewed all the incoming suggestions, and sorted them as follows:

  • Do I want to create this design?
  • Do I think I can easily create this design within the time constraint of the commission?
  • Are there multiple requests for this design?

I’ve added some of the designs that met all these requirements to the list, and I’m saving the remainder of the suitable ideas for the next review. I’ve also saved the suggestions I loved, but that may pose more design challenges, to my regular pattern ideas list (I don’t want my design to be limited by the time constraint – some ideas just take more time to percolate!), so don’t despair if your suggestion doesn’t appear here.

Feedback Review

It’s been really helpful for me to receive questions and suggestions, so I can make improvements based on what people really want to see here.

Review your pledges: Although you always get a confirmation email for each pledge you make, people wanted a way to see everything they’ve pledged towards at once, so I’ve added the My Pledges feature. Just enter your email address and you’ll see a list of all the pledges you’ve made.

More options: I did a poll in my Facebook group to ask if people would prefer to see a larger selection of ideas in the list, or if that would be overwhelming. 75% voted that they’d still be happy if there were over 30 choices (double what I had until now), so I’ve increased the number of options on the list. Click through to the Commissions page to see (and maybe pledge towards) the new additions!

What’s that animal? I’ve also had requests, particularly from non-native English speakers, to include a photo of each animal on the list, to help them decide whether they’d like to pledge towards its design. Sourcing copyright-free images for each animal would be too much work, so, instead, I’ve made the name of each animal on the list into a direct link to its Wikipedia page (which, as yet, has always included at least one photo – I’ll link to a different page if it doesn’t).
PlanetJune Commissions: now with links to Wikipedia

If you’re not quite sure what a Capybara (for example) looks like, just click its name on the pledge chart. The Capybara Wikipedia page will open in a new tab/window and you’ll see its photo and description:
PlanetJune Commissions: now with links to Wikipedia

Security Review

I ran into a major problem last week: over the course of a day, I received 3 fake pledges from people pledging huge amounts ($102, $42, $114) and giving fake email addresses. Although I deleted the pledges as soon as I spotted them, knowing it could happen again and again at any time was a big concern. The system doesn’t work if the pledge chart may be wrong and some pledgers turn out to be fake!

After a sleepless night worrying about it, I decided I had to code a verification step to prevent prank bids, so I did that on Friday morning. Now you’ll get a confirmation email with a link you have to click to verify each pledge. The added bonus is that any pledges with misspelt email addresses will also get filtered out now – those are useless to me, as I wouldn’t be able to collect the money without a valid contact email address!

This does mean an extra step whenever you make a pledge, but it makes the system far more secure and reliable, so I think it’s worth it. From now, only confirmed pledges will be shown on the chart or in My Pledges. (Do remember to check your Spam folder if you don’t see the verification emails in your Inbox!)

Summary

With a more reliable system and lots of fun new design options on the list, I think I’m ready for the next 6 months of Commissions! It’s always a risk when you come up with a completely new way of doing things, but, so far at least, it seems to be working well. I usually have to keep quiet about the designs I’m working on (to prevent copycatting before I can publish them), so I’m enjoying being able to share more of my design process with the PlanetJune Ravelry group with these designs that everyone already knows I’m creating.

As always, if you have suggestions to improve this process further, please do let me know – the advantage of doing my own coding is that I can keep tweaking and refining the system with no cost (except my time) and no delays (except my other PlanetJune priorities) – and setting myself little coding challenges makes a refreshing change from my usual design and time-management challenges!

I think the changes I’ve made are making the system stronger and, hopefully, more enticing. Why don’t you take a look and let me know what you think?

Comments (3)

wip project organiser

Sometimes an idea is so simple you can’t believe it never occurred to you before – and this is one of them.

I have a system for organising my crochet WIPs (works in progress): each project gets its own zip-lock bag or plastic tub, and the yarn, hook, swatches or prototypes, completed pieces, and any other project bits all stay together until the project is finished. But I have a lot of designs on the go these days, and the WIP bags and boxes were piling up all over my office. Furniture here is expensive, so I couldn’t just run out to buy an inexpensive storage solution as I would have in Canada. Then, inspiration struck!

wip project organiser

I bought this canvas hanging closet organiser when we first moved to South Africa and our temporary apartment had no storage areas except for the built-in closets. Once we moved into our house and all our clothes arrived, we needed all our hanging space for clothes, so the organiser was forgotten, until today.

A minute with the Dremel and a tiny drill bit, a couple of white screw-in cup hooks and an offcut of rope, and voilà: an instant WIP organiser. I’ve hung it in the wasted space just beyond the door in my office – and there’s actually room to add a 2nd one next to it, if my number of projects expands further…

Each project is still contained in its bag or box, but now I have a place to store them all together for easy access. The bottom shelf is reserved for items waiting to be photographed – I had to remove several amigurumi before snapping this pic, as they aren’t quite ready to show their faces in public yet πŸ˜‰

It doesn’t look bad, and it cost nothing as I already had everything I needed. Obviously, this wouldn’t be sturdy enough for heavy storage, but a canvas organiser is perfect for yarn projects. I can already tell that I’m going to love being able to see all my WIP designs at a glance and not have to hunt to find the appropriate project bag when I need it!

Comments (10)

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